Romania’s Bernadette Szocs and Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm carried defending champions Falcons TTC into the finals of the CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis Powered by Kellogg’s, setting up an exciting battle for the championship against Dabang Smashers.
Szocs starred in two victories while World No. 30 Ekholm, tasked with winning all three sets against Ayhika Mukherjee in the seventh and final clash of the night, easily attained her goal at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Saturday.
Ekholm outhit and overwhelmed Ayhika 11-4, 11-3, 11-4 to upstage Mavericks, who were ahead in the contest all the way till the last fixture.
Earlier, Germany’s Sabine Winter put the Mavericks ahead, taming Sutirtha Mukherjee 2-1 (11-8, 11-8, 9-11) in the opening match. But India’s national women’s champion Sutirtha did well to extract a point from her: it proved crucial in the final analysis.
India’s Harmeet Desai too scored an unexpected 2-1 victory over World No. 56 Alvaro Robles. The Mavericks captain, ranked 81, took the first two sets 11-6, 11-10 but the Falcons claimed the third set once again to gain another vital point.
The Falcons came into their own in the mixed doubles, with Sanil Shetty and Szocs forcing a 2-1 victory. They beat Harmeet Desai and Doo Hoi Kem, even coming back from 0-5 down to win the second set.
Captain Liam Pitchford, however, couldn’t continue his golden run, losing to Sweden’s Mattias Karlsson 1-2 in a thrilling clash. In a spectacular contest, he came out second best, losing 11-10, 9-11, 10-11 to give back the advantage to the Mavericks.
Tiny Szocs, however, promptly brought the Falcons into the game, upsetting World No. 13 Doo Hoi Kem 2-1. An error-prone Hoi Kem just couldn’t break down Szocs’ defences to suffer two defeats on the big day.
Sanil Shetty battled hard to snatch one point against Ukraine’s Kou Lei to take the semifinal into the seventh and final contest. Sanil looked down and out after losing the first two sets but lifted his game several notches to win the third set.
That was enough to give Ekholm the opening to take the Falcons into the final.
Falcons TTC bt RP-SG Mavericks 11-10
Women’s singles: Sutirtha Mukherjee lost to Sabine Winter (Ger) 1-2 (8-11, 8-11, 11-9)
Men’s singles: Alvaro Robles (Esp) lost to Harmeet Desai 1-2 (6-11, 10-11, 11-6)
Mixed doubles: Sanil Shetty/ Bernadette Szocs bt Harmeet Desai/ Doo Hoi Kem 2-1 (11-10, 11-9, 9-11)
Men’s singles: Liam Pitchford (Eng) lost to Mattias Karlsson (Swe) 1-2 (11-10, 9-11, 10-11)
Women’s singles: Bernadette Szocs (Rom) bt Doo Hoi Kem (HK) 2-1 (11-8, 11-7, 4-11)
Men’s singles: Sanil Shetty lost to Kou Lei (Ukr) 1-2 (8-11, 4-11, 11-7)
Women’s singles: Matilda Ekholm (Swe) bt Ayhika Mukherjee 3-0 (11-4, 11-3, 11-4).
July 1 (Sunday): Dabang Smashers v Falcons TTC (final)